Righteous Anger

I Samuel 11:6 says: “Then the Spirit of God came upon Saul mightily when he heard these words, and he became very angry.”
It is of note here that when the Spirit of God came upon Saul, the result was that he became “very angry”! This is not the result one might anticipate from a person who was filled with the Spirit! But in fact it is very much in line with the nature and character of God.

The situation here, as described in :1-4 of this chapter, calls for such a response. Jabesh-gilead, a city in Israel, was besieged by an enemy who had promised to gouge out the right eye of every inhabitant as a price for letting them live and serve him. When messengers got out to tell Israel, all the people wept. But the response of the Spirit of God upon Saul was anger. This should be instructive to us: God does not sit impassively in the heavens, unfeeling about what takes place on earth. He is a holy, righteous, loving God, whose heart is moved by sin, evil, and injustice. So when His Spirit came upon Saul, He was angry at the evil which was unfolding.

This should instruct us in a couple of ways:

First, God DOES care about the evil that He beholds in the world. He WILL come in His fury and judge it with fire. And let us not forget that it is not only the evil and injustice of OTHERS that He cares about, either — He is moved by OURS as well! If we do not take refuge in the forgiveness which He has provided through Jesus Christ, our transgressions will surely be judged!

Secondly, it is no sin to be angry over evil and injustice. God’s Spirit was stirred by the oppression He saw against Jabesh-gilead. This is consistent with His righteous nature, which we have just referenced. This reminds us that all anger is not “bad.” In fact it is a sin NOT to be angry in the face of blatant evil. We see this also in the Messiah. Jesus was no Stoic in the face of wickedness. He was righteously indignant at the abuses of His Father’s house of worship in Jerusalem, and He acted to cleanse the temple.

Even so, we as His people are not to be complacent in the face of unrighteousness either. There is a time for righteous anger. Jesus gives us a good guide for the place of such righteous anger. “He did not open His mouth” (Isaiah 53) regarding the oppression that He experienced personally. But He was full of righteous anger when the holiness of God’s house was compromised. This teaches us that righteous anger is not to be about what happens to US, but is to be expressed over the oppression of others, just as was evidenced in I Samuel 11 with Saul and Jabesh-gilead.

May God help us remember that He is a holy God, who is very much affronted by our sin. And may He give us grace like He did Saul, to be filled with His Holy Spirit, and break the shackles of complacency, and be moved by the injustice and evil we see done to others.

About Shawn Thomas

My blog, shawnethomas.com, features the text of my sermons, book reviews, family life experiences -- as well as a brief overview of the Lifeway "Explore the Bible" lesson for Southern Baptist Sunday School teachers.
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